Two unforgettable names that introduced a sense of sportiness to Indian motorcyclists about two decades back are the Pulsar and Karizma. Well, unforgettable mainly because neither Bajaj nor Hero seem to want to let go of the legendary brands, and are adamant on keeping the names alive. Having attained great popularity upon their respective launches, all those years back, a new lease at life feels apt, doesn’t it?
Remember when they first hit the streets and everyone wanted either one or the other, from college-going teenagers to working professionals? The appeal that both the Pulsar as well as the Karizma had in the eyes of the public was terrific for both Bajaj as well as Hero-Honda at the time. Both had a brutish charm about them and while the Pulsar was more of a regular hoodlum, the Karizma felt more like a certain sophisticated hooligan. Of course, over the years the Pulsar brand has grown, that too by leaps and bounds and with various different permutations and combinations. The Pulsar N250 and the F250 now sit at the top of the table, and since we have the N250 with us as a long-term vehicle, it has become somewhat of a crowd favourite. Embodying the essence of what the Pulsar brand was built on, the N250 is snappy and not at all shy to put on a display of its capabilities.
The Karizma, on the other hand, has seen a rise and fall, although the brand has managed to maintain the legendary status of the name. It is the heft behind the Karizma nomenclature that has managed to create quite a commotion among enthusiasts, especially when the Karizma XMR was announced. There has been a lot of debate on whether the new XMR is capable of living up to the legacy put in place by the OG Karizma. The motorcycle in itself is quite sorted, but when we go to the extent of comparing its demeanour to its predecessor, there seems to be something missing.
Looking at both the motorcycles side by side, they both look fairly striking. I feel that the front end of the Karizma XMR is marginally better looking, while the rear end of the Pulsar N250 is nice and fetching. As far as performance goes, there is only a difference of one bhp on paper, but still, emission norms have played spoilsport in what could have been livelier engines. There has been an overall gentrification of motorcycles, wherein motorcycles that used to outperform our expectations with ease, now only does as it is told without a fuss.
Ride quality is pretty comfortable on both the XMR and the N250, with a decently soft suspension setup. Both motorcycles have pretty good riding ergonomics, with an upright seating position and room to tuck in. In terms of build quality, the Pulsar fares better as it is more onsistent, while there are a few squeaks and creaks on the Karizma. The manual visor adjusting button system seems to have loosened up, resulting in the visor now being stuck in one position. Also, the mirror stalks cannot swivel as they have been made to remain fixed, I have no idea why. The Karizma does get an upper hand over the Pulsar in terms of tech, like the Bluetooth-compatible display which also gets navigation information, while the semi-analogue infinity display setup of the Pulsar is reminiscent of the older generations.
The braking on both bikes is also pretty much on par, both sporting 300mm front discs and similar sets of tyres, but for the increased cross-section on the Karizma. The switches and plastics feel a little better on the Pulsar than on the Karizma.
The handling of both motorcycles is pretty much on par again, although the N250 feels sharper on the corners and slightly more balanced as compared to the XMR. There is power on demand through most of the rev-band on the Pulsar, while you will have to work at extracting it from the Karizma. Both motorcycles are still capable of a good deal of fun, and there’s no refusing that, it just means that it is slightly toned down. Both play a gruff tune through their respective pipes, although I still prefer the growl of the Pulsar.
Overall, the Karizma XMR would appeal to people who have heard of the legend behind the name and are looking to buy their first bike. The Pulsar N250, on the other hand, should cater to those who prefer a bit more refined experience and are looking to upgrade to a quarter-litre that isn’t harsh on the pockets. Being pretty good motorcycles, I am sure the rivalry will last for a little longer at least.